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What Really Robs us of our Time and Energy?

Things that rob us of time and energy…..one of the most common topics that come up in coaching!  I often assess my own use of time as my ‘endless energy’ now has a definitive end-which is about 9 pm every evening! I’ve also learned over the years that I can’t manage time-time is what it is.  I can only manage myself within the time I have.  External demands will always be there. If we are alive, we can count on this!  What happens in our external environment we have very little control over.

What we do haveClockInGrass control over is what we believe about those external demands. For instance, if I believe that I have to be available 24/7 to serve and keep my customers, well I won’t have much of a life!  That belief is robbing me of time and energy.  I can choose to let go of that belief and create a new one: I believe I can best serve my customer when I’m physically and emotionally healthy. This belief is aligned with something I value (health) and makes it easier for me to design my life to match this new belief.

I like to call our Values and Beliefs our OS-operating system.  Values speak to what is core to us, what is really important.  Beliefs come from the meaning we make of our experience, or we inherit them or are taught them through different groups we’re a part of.   We can change our beliefs if they no longer serve what we want for ourselves.  So if you feel robbed of your time and energy, start asking yourself,  “what belief am I operating under and what value am I not honoring by giving my time and energy to this?”

Here are a few common ‘beliefs’ that rob us of our time and energy.

I believe I have to say yes, especially to my boss, partner, kids, church, volunteer organization, whew! If we say yes to everything outside of us, we are saying no to us.  We overextend.  We act as if we’re kids that have been let loose in a candy store.  Sure it is fun to grab hold of and eat all the candy you can, but we all know what we will be cleaning up if there is not stopping point! We just cannot be all, have all.

Antidote: Try on a new belief-I believe if I say no to ____________ then I will have more time and energy for what is really important to me.   Learn the word NO, or a variation of it.  Having the ability to say no to saying yes to everything is empowering.  In order to say no, try prioritizing according to your values.  Get in the habit of asking this question: If I say yes to this, what am I willing to say no to.  This is a great way to keep you from overextending.

I believe I can do 10 things at once and that will make me more effective with my time.  Much research has shown that multitasking actually robs us of time and energy.  To be honest, I still buy into the belief that when I have more on my plate I get more done because I can multitask.  Sure I can do a lot at the same time but it really does cause an internal stress that translates into lack of energy.  I am in the process of changing this old belief system.

Antidote: Practice presence and mindfultasking.  Being mindful of the present task I am working on is a challenge for me because I really do want to do 3 things at once.  However I am already experiencing a shift in bringing tasks to completion.  Turn off your notifications, your email, step away from the phone!  Present Mindfultasking-try it for a while.  You wont be disappointed.

I believe it is a selfish waste of time to spend time on myself when so many others need me.  Who hasn’t fallen into this trap at one point or another in their lives?  Self care, self nurturing, self love, translated into selfishness.   Perhaps you were taught to serve, serve, serve and in that serving there wasn’t time to honor and care for your life.  Or maybe we were taught through our own life experiences that we were not worth caring for.  This is one area where I have seen deep pain in the human experience. It is our inability to be okay with self care that we set ourselves up for lack of energy and time.  We age more quickly and we limit what our bodies can do for us.  Our bodies, our minds, our spirits need to be fueled, need to be taken care of the same way we take care of others, our homes, our cars, our jobs, etc. So how do we turn this belief system around when it may be deeply ingrained?

Antidote: First, create a new belief: I believe when I take care of myself, I have more life to give, and that the giving is selfless because my needs are met.  This was the belief I tried on and then I began the work of designing my schedule first around my self care knowing that then my serving would be more selfless.  What I am discovering is I have just as much time as before but much more energy!  It has taken some getting use to in prioritizing my self care…..a work in progress, however I will say that changing my belief about self care has had the greatest impact on my life.

Remember, your operating system is your values and beliefs.  Becoming aware of your beliefs and if your beliefs are supporting you and what you value will help you to make empowered choices of how to use your time and energy.

3 Ways to Condition Your Brain for Mental Gymnastics

Mental Gymnastics?  Think about all the flipping, twisting, jumping, swinAustralian artistic gymnast, Lauren Mitchell, performing a layout step-out on the balance beam during the 41st World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in London, United Kingdom, in 2009.ging, flying, and the list goes on, that you see when you watch a gymnastic event.  Then think about what happens in your head when you have A LOT going on-enter mental gymnastics.  When we are not use to ‘performing’ mental gymnastics we can enter into overwhelm and shutdown ending in a paralyzed state.

For twenty-five years of my life, I coached the sport of gymnastics.  In the gym, I quickly learned that when a gymnastic skill is broken down into smaller parts of the whole skill the learning was much quicker.  I also discovered the value of skill drills, having the gymnast repeat the smaller part over and over again (they hated this!) until they didn’t even have to think about what they were doing.

To draw the correlation, when we are on the precipice of change, growth, or overload, the WHOLE of the mess is too much to comprehend and think about at once.  So here are three things you can do to train your brain to perform mental gymnastics.


I call this the ABCD method-A Brain Clearing Dump!  When you make the intangible thought tangible, it allows you to tap into your senses to help you actually deal with the mess.  Writing things down, you tap into your sense of touch.  You can see your thoughts, which may help you articulate them better to someone, then tapping into your hearing.  You have de-cluttered your head.  Now you have room for strategy and creativity.  This would be like setting up the gymnastic equipment in a gym for the gymnast to do their work of performing.  Your gymnastic equipment is your tangible list of thought.


Looking at your list of thoughts, ask yourself,  ‘what goes together?’  Or take it from the perspective of  ‘one of these things does not belong with the others’.  (Feel like you’re on Sesame Street?).  Then name the categories in a way that it makes sense to you.  There is power in this process because without really knowing it you are conditioning your brain to make mini-decisions, mini-choices.  Sorting and categorizing gives you the ability to see, move around and play with your mess of thought.  Before you know it, you have conditioned your brain to be a bit more agile, flexible and powerful in making choices and decisions.


Have you ever experienced a situation when you are trying to remember a person’s name, a name of a song, or a place and you just can’t bring it forward?  But the whole time you keep saying to yourself, what was the name of that ____________, oh well, I can’t remember.  Then perhaps an hour later, a day later or even a week later out of nowhere the answer pops in your head? Your brain never stops looking for the answer to an open-ended question.  Using what, how, and where questions allow your brain to work for you.  Ask the question and let go.  I have found if I’m patient and pay attention, the answer always presents itself.

These three practices, as simplistic as they may seem, allow you to condition your brain for the really big mental gymnastics that happen in life events such as changes in job, family, lifestyle, health, relationship, and much more.  It’s often the simple practices that create the biggest shifts.  Practice these and do a mental flip….don’t flip out!

Creating Your ‘Starbucks’ Experience: 4 Area’s to Define Your Unique Work Experience.


When I think of ‘Creating an Experience’ I think of Starbucks, a company that sells coffee.  However, Starbucks does not just sell coffee, do they?  Starbucks is a company that created an ‘experience’ of coffee.

So much so, that many coffee companies followed suit in creating aesthetic and service ‘experiences’ that left the costumer wanting to come back for more.  Creating atmosphere  and service which tie coffee to conversation, learning, relaxation, friendship, laughter, as well as a mix of human needs and emotions.  Brilliant!  It is no longer about coffee but about the ‘experience’ of purchasing the coffee and what that grants us.

We have all heard of creating ‘customer experience’ which I believe solidifies the relationship between service provider and customer and enhances both the service and relationship.  Working with varied service providers, I’ve witnessed first hand the success of a ‘customer experience’ focus.

Starbucks focused on four factors to create the Customer Experience: Atmosphere, Quality Coffee, Customer Service, and Partner (employee) Satisfaction.  It is the fourth factor that I believe impacts all the rest.  It was the belief of then director of marketing, Howard Schultz (now chairman and CEO), that happy employees would lead to higher customer satisfaction.[1]

Yet, many service providers rarely focus on creating an experience for the ‘internal customer’, the company partner.   In my way of thinking, this would be like expecting a car to run with no maintenance performed and no gas in the tank!  I believe there has to be a balance of in and out focus.  Meaning, if the company is all output to make sure your costumers are having a wonderful experience without paying any attention to the experience happening with the company, people will lose steam.

I became fascinated with the idea of creating a ‘customer service experience’ for myself that left me feeling happy at the end of the workday?  What would it look like? What kind of work environment would keep me wanting to come back for more?  How could I create an experience that would tie my work to the things I value and want as a thread through my life’s fabric-whether I’m in my professional life or personal life?

I explored these questions and set out to create my own ‘Starbucks’ experience. What I discovered was not only have I created an experience for myself, but also my productivity increased as a result!  Happy employees (even if you are your own employee!) create higher customer satisfaction!  I’ll share with you the 4 area’s I took into consideration:


What type of atmosphere do I prefer to work in?  Am I more focused in silence or do I prefer background noise?  Do I like to listen to music or does it distract me?  Do I like the ‘cave’ feel or a lot of light?  What about color-do I like a lot of color in my physical space or a more subdued palette?  I often work virtually in between appointments.  I started paying attention to the spaces I was drawn to work in.  What is in those environments that I could duplicate in my office?  What type of art am I attracted to? What in my life makes me feel good?

This really helped me to set my office up as a ‘feel good’ place to be-not just a place to do work.      It is full of color, books, music, a whole wall white board (creativity) and lots of light! Every day I get to experience my life in my office instead of just doing work in my office.


Here I started with the question-What energizes me and what depletes me?  Humor and Inspirational stories really energize me.  One gets me enjoying the moment and the other offers me a broader scope of life.  In creating my customer experience, I make sure I allow break time to experience both-which are readily available through youtube, social media etc.

The other question I asked was; what are my energy patterns? How can I create my work experience around my energy patterns?  While energy patterns are a real science-learning how to work with them is truly an art!

I have a lot of mental energy in the morning so part of my created work experience was scheduling my heavy ‘thinking’ work in the morning as much as possible.  When I made this shift, I found that I began enjoying this part of my work much more because my energy was aligned with my task at hand.

Productivity (Managing self in time)

What do I most enjoy doing in my work?  What is like nails on the chalkboard to me? How do I manage my time and what tools do I need to set myself up for a great work experience? What do I need to do or have that would best serve me during my work hours?

The answers to these questions led me to hiring an Administrative Specialist and having her manage some new tools that are allowing me to have a great work experience!

And I also consider her ‘work experience.’  The great thing is that I hired someone who gets how to create a ‘work experience’ for herself.  She is in her zone and I am in mine.  High productivity and happy people-what could be better?


I was never the type to celebrate.  I dreaded holidays, parties, and most anything that had to do with celebration.  In my work, I focused forward-everything was a check off the list and I was onto the next…..until!!!  I was given some feedback on how my lack of celebration was hurting others as well as myself.  Not recognizing accomplishment, growth, life changes, keeps everyone in a space of ‘never being good enough’!  While this was never my intent, I could clearly see the impact.  It was hard to hear and was the greatest gift given to me.

Now part of my created work experience is celebration.  I celebrate when I reach a goal, experience growth, accomplish a feat I did not think I was capable of, or just because I can!  I have a number of ways I celebrate-both large and small.  I’ve also embraced celebrating others I work with and walk with in life.  Party on!

I encourage you to create your own unique work experience.  Don’t wait around for others to do it for you-take ownership of how you want to experience your workday! You won’t regret it.

[1] National Business Research Institute Inc. [US]; https://www.nbrii.com/blog/the-customer-experience-starbucks/

Practice to Mastery

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Gymnast on balance beam

For 25 years I coached in the sport of gymnastics. I will share with you the one thing that differentiated a top athlete from a mediocre athlete was showing up for and participating 110% in deliberate practice. And the research backs this up. In The Harvard Business Review, an article titled “The Making of an Expert,” clearly demonstrates that the research “revealed that the amount and quality of practice were key factors in the level of expertise people achieved. Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born.” [1]

Whether it is sport, business, or life there are certain principles of growth that are universal. Deliberate Practice is one of those universal principles. Within deliberate practice, there are certain guidelines:

  • Practice what you are good at and what you are NOT good at.
  • Break it down and be deliberate about practicing that one thing until you have it mastered.
  • Be patient with the investment of time and energy.
  • Have a support system of a teacher, coach, mentor, etc.
  • It takes 10,000 hours of practice to realize mastery.

What do you want to master in your life? What one area do you would want to grow and develop in? What one area, if changed, would impact the rest of your life? For me-it is my eating habits. Once you determine an area, do some pre-work before you jump into practicing-so you know what to be deliberate about in your practice.

The Practice

What is practice? To do or perform habitually or repeatedly. We have all heard it before-“Establish a new routine that matches what you want, practice that routine and become consistent in the practice.” And yet, one of the most consistent complaints I hear from people is “I just can’t be consistent!” If I can’t be consistent, what hope do I have to incorporate this new practice?   The reality is that you are always practicing…and are probably pretty consistent at what you are practicing.

If you go to work, come home, have dinner and watch a few tv shows-you are consistent in practicing this routine! If you do something different every day you are consistent in variety. Recognizing that you can and are consistent is the first step to understanding how to change your undesirable habits into desirable habits and then to establish a structure to hold the practice of those habits.

The issue is breaking the consistency of one practice and transitioning into a new one. In Charles Duhiggs book on the ‘The Power of Habit’ he addresses the Habit Cycle of Cue, Behavior, Reward. The Cue is also known as the ‘trigger’ which precedes an action and ends in a pre-determined reward. By becoming aware of the trigger, you can strategize new behaviors/rewards. I will demonstrate this by using my example of eating habits.

What do you want for yourself that you are not already experiencing?

I want to eat healthier.

What consistent routine do you currently practice around eating?

My practice is that I grab eat. I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack after dinner. I sometimes have a glass of wine with dinner.

I sometimes just eat a snack in place of dinner.

If I am home working, I tend to snack in between meals on un-healthy snacks.

I also consistently grab snack type foods when I am tired.

What do you believe you can change or not change?

I don’t believe I can change my grab eating — it is too engrained in me.

I do believe I could plan better and pre-make healthier food that I can ‘grab’.

I believe I am aware of my triggers (tiredness) and could acknowledge the trigger and re-condition myself to either drink water or grab a pre-made healthy snack.

Looking at what you believe you can change, what will you commit to doing?

I will commit to planning ‘healthy foods’ for the week and making them on Sunday to have to grab and re-heat during the week.

As a gymnastics coach, practice was not only mandatory for advancement, but it was a safety measure against injury. I had a standing rule that a gymnast had to perform a skill 10 times in a row technically correct before they could move to the next skill level. You can imagine the grumbling! However, we rarely experienced serious injury in the gym. How does this translate to life? With the above example, every time I did not follow my protocol (planning/preparing on Sunday), it would be considered a ‘fall’ and the count would restart. I may be at 6 weeks of doing it and took a fall! Back to #1! The point here is that at the point of 10 weeks of practicing my new commitment consistently, I am more grounded in the practice and my risk of injury (not eating in a healthy manner) is minimized.

While you can use this guide of powerful questions to help you self coach and self discover, remember that experts have a strong support system of teachers, coaches and mentors. If you are ready to make a change in your life and you are in transition, give me a call, I will support you in new practices to make that happen!

 You are what you practice……and you are always practicing something!

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.” – Matt Biondi



[1] Harvard Business Review; July 2007, The Making of an Expert; K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, Edward T. Cokely

I’m the Boss — That’s Why!

Man Mean Anger Pointing Finger Yelling Casual Bald 640x440Recently, a client was sharing with me a situation he was in where the stern reply, “I’m your boss, that’s why!” was shot back after he asked a challenging question. Being a proponent of Leadership and developing leadership cultures, this type of interaction reall got me thinking! What does a ‘boss’ culture look like versus a ‘leader’ culture? There are many great bosses out there that demonstrate leadership skills at a high level; however, there are also bosses that are not such great leaders.

I asked my client how that comment landed for him. Aside from wanting to punch the guy’s lights out, he said the response felt very punitive: “I just felt my contribution was being diminished.” He perceived that his contribution was challenging because he brought another perspective to what had already been put on the table. He shared with me that the organization touts a culture of win/win and he did not see how the “I’m the boss” comment supported that culture. No one wins after a comment like that. And what type of culture is created out of this type of ‘leading’? I would venture to say that people don’t feel valued and they feel the organization is more interested in outcomes than the overall process. Leaders will motivate rather than dismiss or diminish their team’s contributions….and that includes when they challenge the process.

The book “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner demonstrates five exemplary practices of leadership:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process (hmm, guess my client’s ‘boss’ didn’t read this one)
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Of course the book goes into some wonderful depth on each of these and includes the research to back it up. One of the reasons I started studying leadership cultures was because I had been in boss structures and they never seemed to work well for me. They may work for some and that’s ok; however, over the years I have experienced both cultures and the leadership culture’s ‘team members’ always seem happier, more productive and more fulfilled…which always supports the bottom line!

Here are just a few quick identifiers based on this wonderful research contrasted by a boss lacking leadership skills: 

Modeling the Way vs. Dictating the Way

  • Modeling the way simply means getting really clear on what is important (values) to the organization as a whole (collective values) and setting an example by living out those values.
  • Dictating the way simply means that one is not interested in the whole. They are consumed by their goals and outcomes and will make sure that those ‘serving’ them will follow their way.

Inspire a Shared Vision vs. You’re on a Need-to-Know basis

  • Inspire a Shared Vision is what connects team members to the bigger picture of why they are even there in the first place. When team members have a voice, know the direction of the whole and understand the motivation behind certain decisions, strategies, etc., they are more likely to feel and take ownership of their part in it.
  • You’re on a Need-to-Know basis keeps team members in a space of instability. Fear and power struggles increase as team members will be more inclined to feel that they are in survival mode. With no sustaining voice, no clear direction; it is difficult to maintain motivation. Ownership of the organization’s direction rests solely in the boss’ lap.

Challenge the Process vs. Do As I Say, and Keep Quiet

  • Challenge the Process is all about expanding the range of the organization by embracing differing perspectives, supporting innovation and new creations, and being open to new ideas and allowing some risk.
  • Do As I Say and Keep Quiet may keep the team ‘in line’; however, it is going to do little in supporting the synergy of the team or the movement of the team. The outlook of this type of practice is simply maintenance — team members will maintain the status quo. (And the organization will probably have a low retention rate!).

Enable Others to Act vs. Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there!  

  • Enabling others to act requires that you know your team members! Leaders take a personal interest in their team members and what would support them as individuals, as team members and as a part of the organization. In knowing their team members, leaders help support collaborative efforts and interdependence in mutually respectful relationships. Team members are supported in becoming leaders.
  • Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there; well, you can imagine how de-energizing this may be! In this scenario, the boss holds the power and the team member is dis-empowered. The boss chooses; the team member does not have a choice. The relationship is one of dependence — the employee dependent on the boss.

Encourage the Heart vs. You are here to support my goals

  • Encourage the Heart is demonstrated through recognition. Whether a leader is recognizing a team member one-on-one, in a team meeting or in front of the company, recognition always speaks to the heart. Recognition is about saying publicly that your contributions matter and make a difference. You are a valued part of the organization.
  • You are here to support my goals means just that — you are a means to my end. This may not be said overtly; however, a lack of genuine recognition of contribution demonstrates the attitude.

Zig Ziglar, Management Guru Extraordinaire, stated these comparisons that I will leave you with. Which culture do you want to create?

Boss vs Leader

Click to Enlarge

Your Life Manifesto

Open A Blank White Notebook, Pen And Coffee On The DeskI recently had an interesting experience where someone reflected to me their perspective of how they ‘want’ me to show up. Their downright mean comment really hit me below the belt. What was interesting was my response. Because I do not immediately react, another person jumped in and said “that was below the belt”, to which I responded with “yes it was.” And while I did not feed the comment with comebacks that would have put this person ‘in their place,’ I did respond with a statement of centeredness in my value system that clearly stated my standard in verbal play. And it was then that I realized just how powerful a personal manifesto has become in my life. One of the statements in my manifesto is “I will always honor the human spirit” and in this situation, I did. I honored the spirit of the person who made the mean comment by not beating them into the ground for being mean and I honored my spirit by standing in myself.

My point is not that I am something special, because believe me: I had some great comebacks in my head! My point is the power of a personal manifesto. A dear friend of mine, a fellow coach, encouraged me to write a manifesto when I was first starting my coaching business. I had no idea the impact that this document was going to have on me. However, that being said, it has taken me a number of years to come to the realization that written word + intention + attention = manifestation. First, let me say that my personal manifesto more addresses how I want to ‘be’ in life versus what I am going to ‘do’ in life. In an age when we tend to focus on the ‘do’, my manifesto did not address this at all. I have to be honest; in the moment that I wrote it, I was frustrated with myself. I was seeking guidance on what to do with my coaching business and yet all that came out of me was how I was going to be! How was this going to help me? Ha! Boy, did I receive life guidance.

How it helps me is acting as a guiding light when I make choices. Our life is determined by our moment-by-moment choices. Does the choice allow for me to be the person I want to manifest? Is my choice supporting me or adding stress because it is not in alignment with who I propose to be? Life is dynamic and doing is dynamic, ever changing. Focusing on who I want to ‘be’ regardless of the change around me allowed for the stability of centeredness, the constant of my truth. That doesn’t mean my ‘being’ does not change; quite the contrary. I am changing, growing, and learning every day. However, each change brings me closer to my authentic self. When I wrote this document in 2006, I do believe that my higher self was guiding me. I asked for it and I got it! In the moment, it was not what I expected; however, in retrospect it was exactly what I needed.

If you want a life of intention that you are willing to pay attention to, reach out and I will help you write your Life Manifesto. You will embark on an adventure you won’t forget! See my Life Manifesto here.

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

A bicycle, a beautiful day, and a mobile office

^^ Getting unstuck.

How many times have I heard this line in my life?   Truer words were never spoken! I am a pretty open person and yet, I too fall into perspectives that keep me closed to possible opportunities.

Now that I have become more aware of the power of choice in perspective, I am living my life differently. Today I am experiencing a workday in a completely different perspective. Instead of spending 8 hours in my office checking off my ‘to-do’ list (routine), I decided to take my office mobile (a change). I did this because I am feeling ‘stuck’ and movement always opens space for me. I packed a backpack with my Mac air and lunch, then hopped onto my bike for the day!

I am currently sitting at Lincoln Marsh in Wheaton. This is part of my old ‘stomping grounds’. I am appreciating the warm breeze, listening to the weeping willows blow in the breeze, the bullfrogs calling out and numerous birds in chorus. I use my iPhone for a hot spot if I need internet access and away I go……working, playing, and getting inspired.

Making the switch from the point of view of staying committed to the ‘routine’ to a new perspective of ‘create an adventure’ also helped me to challenge myself to entertain other perspectives around my ‘stuck-ness.’ Such as, “I’m not stuck — I’m simmering.”

I have often asked myself what creates stuck-ness in perspective? Of course, I come up with a number of brilliant answers. For me, it is all about certainty. I love my certainty! If I’m certain about something, I feel safe and I know what I can count on. However, my experience has shown me that little in life is 100% ‘certain.’ Trying to make things ‘certain’ is futile and more importantly, if everything is certain in our lives, where is the joy of discovery? (It’s not just meant for children.)

So as I am on this journey, I am discovering that when I expand my way of thinking, look at my life with curiosity, and explore new perspectives — discoveries abound!   The prairie path I took today I have probably traveled a million times over my lifetime. However, because I was not just out for the ride but was also looking for places to stop and work, I discovered some beautiful areas ‘off-road’ to stop and work. New discoveries!

Then, at one of the ‘off-road’ spots, another biker appeared and we started up a conversation. It turns out he is a consultant doing work I am aligned with! A new alliance perhaps, or simply discovering the connection in humanity — either way, discoveries and opportunities abound!

Entertaining new perspectives is sometimes a challenge when somebody else is not there bringing in their difference of opinion (new perspective). Sometimes, I think of people in my life, or even animals, and entertain what perspective they would bring to the table on this topic. I know if I had asked my dog Toby what to do when I got stuck-he would say, “Let’s go for a walk, please, please, please!!!” and you know, that would certainly open the space for me and help me to perhaps embrace a new perspective!

At one time or another we all experience a feeling of ‘stuck-ness’ whether it is mental, emotional or physical. Entertaining different perspectives affords you more possibility and opportunity.   Empowering yourself to choose which perspective you want to create from will give you complete ownership of your direction!

Making Choices: Inside Out or Outside In? Upside or Downside?

Woman Pensive with Coffee Cup 900x600Does that title have your curiosity piqued?  Are you wondering what I am talking about and how these phrases reflect making choices?  Let me first give you the down and dirty formula:

  • Inside Out: from your values, beliefs
  • Outside In: from experiences, perspectives, others’ opinions and advice
  • Upside: from a place of resonance — what is working, what feels natural to you, what feels right to you
  • Downside: from a place of dissonance — what isn’t working, what doesn’t feel right to you

I have read a lot about ‘making choices’ and whether we are better off or not with our freedom of choice.  There is a lot of research available on the subject.  Whether we are better off or not, we are confronted with making choices on a daily basis.  I have not always made the best choices for myself over the years, so I have experimented with my choice making.  What I have discovered is the formula above and thought I would share it with you.

Inside Out

In the context of making choices, taking the options through an inside out perspective means running the options through our value and belief systems.  The easiest way to do this is to ask: What about this option is important to me?  What value is there?  What do I believe about that?  Click here for more on values/beliefs.

You may discover that there are things that are important to you in considering all the options. What, then, do you do?  This is a great opportunity to work on your ‘core’ values and to identify beliefs or perspective.

For example, I was in a situation where I was spending a large amount of time traveling for work. In fact, in a month’s time, I was in the car 40 hours out of the month!  That is a whole workweek!  The dilemma came in when my value for time was being challenged by a value for coaching in-person.  Doing some discovery work, I discovered a ‘belief’ I had that coaching was better face-to-face.  I really had nothing to base this belief on, so I challenged it.  I tried coaching over the phone and discovered that my belief was faulty.  By changing my belief, I was also able to honor my value of time and still deliver great coaching over the phone.

How do those values and beliefs get challenged?  From an outside-in perspective.  Using your daily experiences, others perspectives, opinions and advice you have a well-balanced model to determine what is important to you and what you believe. I value the opinion and advice from others in my life; however, at the end of the day, it is important to check balance against my own value and belief system to make sure I am making choices that are resonant to me.

Which brings us to what I like to call the upside/downside formula for making a choice:   Resonance vs. Dissonance.  I didn’t really start paying attention to my ‘energy’ or ‘emotions’ as a means to directing my choices until I got so sick of living in the ‘shoulds’!  Once I removed that word from my language, I replaced it with a question: “Does this feel resonant to me or not?”  Sometimes my over-self-management would not allow me to tap into my emotions; however, my body would always direct me with my energy.  Was I energized and looking forward to something, or dreading and exhausted?  As I have followed my energy, it has been easier for me to tap into my emotions and do a self-check on my choices.  Sometimes I choose and discover that I am in constant frustration – a sure sign that the choice is not resonant for me.  Oftentimes making the wrong choice and being in that experience reveals dissonance very clearly and will direct you to another choice.

What I have discovered about making choices is when I make an empowered choice that has been run though the inside out/outside in, and upside/downside cross check; I spend less time spinning my wheels and more time enjoying my life.  Try it!


Shhh…I Have a Secret to Business Achievement

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”  – John Dewey

Sky Reflected in Corporate Building 450x299I am an entrepreneur and I coach a lot of entrepreneurs.   In coaching, I have discovered that an area that seems to be a consistent ‘weak link’ in an entrepreneur’s skill set is that of assessing their business, which requires a skill of reflection.  I have always been a strong observer and reflector, two gifts of introversion!  Even though these skills came naturally to me, I still needed to learn to be intentional about using them to assess my business.

Reflection, simply put is thinking about or ‘reflecting’ on what you did, how you were being or what happened. Whether you are self reflecting or reflecting on your business, the way to glean value from your life/business experience is to reflect on it!

In Business

I have learned it takes equal parts of knowing, being and doing to make my business happen. Once I was up and running, I wanted to progress and learn from my experience.  I tried my hand at a number of ‘new business models’, which helped to guide me.  However, even though I had wonderful models to follow, no one else is me or has my unique set of strengths and weaknesses.  I learned it is important to learn from our own experience and not base all our learning on someone else’s experience.

As John Dewey says in the above quote, in order to use experience as a true teacher in life, it is important to know how to practice reflective exercises.  Reflection takes the experience beyond face value where we may get caught in our reactive default settings. There is reflection that keeps us stuck and reflection that moves us forward.  Reflection that keeps us stuck is when we are telling the story over and over and making someone wrong in it.  We are focused on judgment!  If we want to move forward, it is important to start the reflection and remove the judgment.

I started looking at my business objectively by using the “What, So What, Now What” method.  When I look at the “What”, I am sticking to the black and white, the facts.  I get clear on who or what is involved.  For instance, if you were doing a quarterly assessment on your business, you may look at your tracking for sales, looking at the numbers for new clients/customers, your tracking for marketing and how many clients/customers came from what marketing, your tracking of finances.  What did you spend money on, was there a return on investment, where did you overspend, are you meeting your financial goals?  Numbers tell a story so during the “What” stage you are beginning with the objective reflection on the numbers.  If you are reflecting on a specific situation, such as conflict with a customer, stick to the facts and create an outline in order of what has happened.  Again, the “What” stage is all about objectivity.

During the “So What” stage, I can subjectively attach meaning to the objective data.  What does it mean to me?  What is the story the numbers are trying to tell me?  Where are there missing pieces?  I found that this was the stage to also get perspective by asking others what the numbers or facts of the situation meant to them.  When you allow for others’ perspectives, it expands your capacity to find possibilities, opportunities or solutions.

And finally I arrive at the “Now What” stage.  This is when I put my objective and subjective assessment into learning.  Keeping the learning in context to the bigger picture of my business as a whole, there are two questions I like to ask myself, as well as my coaching clients, when assessing their business:

  • What learning will you take forward?  Perhaps a new habit, a new routine, a new way of being or an uncovered value.
  • What will you let go of? Perhaps an old thought pattern, a marketing or financial mistake or a belief system that is not supporting your business?

I have found the “What, So What and Now What” structure is a great way to assess my business on a quarterly basis.  It not only allows me to keep on the pulse of my business, it also allows me a structure to track my decision making process.

When I do my year-end assessment, using my quarterly What/So What/Now What trackers, I like to look at the year’s business positives and affirm the decisions that got me there.  Then I look at the year’s negatives and ask two questions:

  • What Can I Change?
  • What Am I Willing to Change?

Once I get clear on changes I want to make, I list the learnings that brought me to this point in order to ground them.  I always like to end the year, in business and life, on a foot of gratitude and learning.

I would venture to say that I believe assessment is one of the most valuable business practices that you can incorporate into your business systems.  Make it a habit and you will keep yourself on the path of business development and growth.

The Triple-A, Power Packed Practices!


Portrait Of Three Female Friends On HolidayHave you heard of the power of three?  As a gardener there is a rule of thumb to plant in groupings of three.  Being raised Catholic; I became very familiar with the Holy Trinity.  As a professional coach, I learned about the power of the co-created relationship that includes the client, coach and relationship; each as separate and united parts of the whole.  Even habits are formed by a 3-loop process, as demonstrated in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: cue, behavior and reward.  The power of 3 is both scientific and artistic! Tapping into the science of three, I am going to share 3 practices that I have found key in the process of life and business success.  I call these the power-packed Triple A because if you want to move forward in your life or business, these 3 practices will serve you well.

I have always been a curious person and loved to sit and watch people and hypothesize what drove certain behaviors.  I never realized that I was strengthening a skill that would develop my sense of awareness. The skill of ‘watching’ is observing.  I observed human behavior — that was my interest and I became very attuned to behavior and language patterns.  However, when this skill really served me was when I started turning it inward: meaning, getting into observation of myself.  In order to really heighten your awareness it is important to periodically take a huge step back from the experience of life and work and get into observation.

For example, lets say you are in conflict with someone or with yourself.  Conflict is an area where a lot of people would rather sweep it under the rug than bring it out into the open.  This practice usually hurts you, the relationship and/or your business.

To heighten our awareness, we need to take a step back from the experience and ourselves and get into observation.  In doing so, try to remove all subjectivity and just observe the facts of the experience and your being in it.   This helps you to get present to the reality of the conflict.

After you remove the subjectivity, invite it back in.  The ‘subjectivity’ is how you are ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ about your experience.  What are your thoughts saying to you about your experience? What emotions came up for you?  What are your thoughts saying about your emotions?  We often times act subject to our thoughts and emotions so it is a great practice to get into observance of them and maintain some objectivity.  Your thoughts/emotions are only as powerful as you allow them to be! (Notice that the awareness is about YOU in the situation — not the other party in the conflict!)

Bringing awareness through observation techniques to the situation helps you to process the conflict and take the next step, which is Acknowledgment.

As you are pulling experiences into focus and becoming more aware of you in your experiences, acknowledge the reality of what is! Acknowledging is admitting the existence or truth of an experience.  In doing so, it gives you the power to deal with it.

If you do not acknowledge what is, you will not move beyond it.  You will bury it, avoid it, and resist it for the sake of the peace/harmony/fear or a number of other reasons. Here is the thing: what you resist will persist! Life has a way of bringing things back up until we allow ourselves to fall into it and learn how to recover. Acknowledge the conflict to the other party AFTER you have taken the time to heighten your awareness of the conflict and you in it.  A couple of things to remember when acknowledging:

  • Be honest
  • Speak from “I”
  • Name your perspective — what is your point of view?

When you have fully acknowledged an experience in your life or business, or as in this example, the conflict, then the final step in this power packed trio is Acceptance!

Acceptance is defined as ‘taking something given to you’. Notice that it does not say ‘taking something good, nice, positive, etc.! Sometimes it appears that life does not hand you what you want. Lets take conflict for example; you may not ask for it, but suddenly it appears!

The key is how quickly you can move into accepting the reality of what life is offering so you can choose what to do with it.  If you are in non-acceptance, you are setting yourself up for making someone or something wrong.  Three key questions if you feel you are struggling with acceptance:

  • Are you making yourself wrong?
  • Are you making your life wrong?
  • Are you making others in your life wrong?

The truth is you are not wrong, your life is not wrong, others are not wrong.

What may be making you feel ‘wrong’ is that you may not be in alignment with your values. This is an opportunity to get clear on what is important to you. Or you may be holding onto a belief system that no longer works for you: are you willing to change it?

Your life may feel wrong because it is not going the way you imagined; however you always have the power of choice!  When you exercise acceptance, you have more opportunity to get clear on what you need to do to bring your life back into alignment with you.

Others may feel wrong because they do not believe the way you do or value what you value – that just makes them different, not wrong.  Virginia Satir states, “We connect through our sameness, we grow through our differences.” We evolve as individuals and leaders when we learn to embrace differences as a growth catalyst, not a ‘wrong’ way of being.

When we practice heightening our awareness to our lives, acknowledging the reality of what exists for us and accepting where we are, we are contributing to our empowerment, which positively influences those around us.